Grief is a universal experience shared by almost everyone at any age. The loss of something or someone you love and hold dear to you almost always causes feelings of sadness and regret that can last for many years or a lifetime, especially when it’s not adequately addressed.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Does ‘Letting Go of Grief’ Mean and Look Like?
- Is It Possible to Let Go of Grief?
- How Do You Know If You’re Ready to Let Go of Grief?
- What If You’re Not Ready to Let Go of Grief?
- Rituals or Ideas to Help You Let Go of Grief and Loss
Letting go of grief isn't always easy, and how we deepen our understanding of the grief experience depends on how we experience, express, and adapt to the many losses in life. Healing from grief is possible once effective mourning is allowed to take shape, and you must permit yourself to feel all of the emotions necessary to heal yourself from your pain.
When bereaved individuals hold in their sorrow associated with loss, they can suffer through complicated grief reactions leading to difficulty moving forward from their loss. Many will suffer from the inability to make new connections and start new relationships with others, negatively affecting their overall quality of life.
What Does ‘Letting Go of Grief’ Mean and Look Like?
Bereaved persons suffering through loss will ordinarily go through several stages of grief that often begin before the death of their loved one or another traumatic event. These types of losses are common in home foreclosure and long-term illness events.
These symptoms can persist for years in individuals who are vulnerable to prolonged grief. Still, a full and complete mourning process is necessary for survival regardless of how long it takes to move through it. This process allows the bereaved to grieve by letting go of sadness and regret and breaking the attachment to the person or thing they lost.
When a person has successfully worked through their grief, it means that they’ve:
- Accepted the death of a loved one
- Come to terms with their loss
- Successfully integrated back into their everyday life
Letting go of grief doesn’t mean that the survivor has forgotten the person or events that occurred, and they may still recall them in vivid detail through flashbacks of the death experience and thoughts of the deceased. Some grieving individuals focus on the tragedy, obscuring any idea of the future, making it challenging to let go of their grief and move forward with life.
Is It Possible to Let Go of Grief?
Facing and letting go of your loss and regrets doesn’t look the same for everyone suffering through a significant loss. Some bereaved individuals move through their grief rather quickly and uneventfully. And yet, others struggle with releasing the negative feelings and emotions associated with loss. While it’s possible to let go of grief, it may require work to get through the most challenging aspects of the grieving process.
Some ways of releasing the painful experience of grieving the death of a close loved one or the loss of another significant aspect of your life is by forgiving yourself and others and facing and letting go of guilt. Finding a special place for your traumatic experiences is required when working with grief. Grief work requires you to:
- Acknowledge the past
- Reframe your current reality
- Focus on personal goals
How Do You Know If You’re Ready to Let Go of Grief?
Recognizing that you’re ready to move past your grief may strike you unexpectedly. The “normal” grieving process lasts from six to twelve months, depending on the type of loss suffered. Individuals experiencing the death of a child, spouse, sibling, or parent will take longer to grieve. When dealing with close personal loss, you can expect grief to last two years or longer before feeling ready to let go of suffering.
Letting go of grief and self-transformation begin to take shape at different stages for bereaved individuals. Most commonly, you’ll start to see a shift in the intensity of your suffering at around the six-month mark.
By twelve months, you might begin accepting that your life has changed and the need to reprogram your thinking toward resuming your life. Some loss survivors see a definite shift from grieving to being ready to move forward at around the one-year mark from their experience.
What If You’re Not Ready to Let Go of Grief?
Those dealing with the more profound types of grief may not feel ready to put their grief behind them for a few years after their loss. There's nothing wrong with taking the necessary time to process your pain and suffering until you're ready to let go of it. However, when the adverse reactions to grief aren't subsiding, you may want to consider getting grief counseling or tapping into other grief resources available to you.
Any intense feelings of excessive anger, guilt, and regret that linger for several months or years after your loss can signal complications in the grieving process, making it hard to deal with your loss. The inability to move on from these painful grief reactions stalls the natural progression of grief, causing you to become stuck in it, leading to a detachment from life, numbness to everything around you, and chronic depression that's challenging to escape.
Rituals or Ideas to Help You Let Go of Grief and Loss
Designing rituals to help you let go of your grief begins with how you view death. Your religious or spiritual upbringing, and cultural customs, all combine to provide a background for how you deal with loss. Consider a combination of the following ideas to help you decide what works best for you in moving on from a traumatic loss in life.
There is an uptick in the popularity of grief retreats because they seem to work for bereaved individuals of any age and cultural background. These weekend or week-long conferences aim at helping you heal from the trauma and pain associated with a significant loss.
When participating in these retreats, you can expect a complete immersion into your grief to allow for your hidden feelings and emotions to surface. Through guided sessions, you’ll learn about the grieving process and how to move toward healing from your pain and sorrow. Another advantage of participating in retreats is the shared camaraderie with others with shared experiences.
Grief journaling helps you connect with your inner thoughts and feelings associated with your loss. Allowing time each day for personal grief reflection gives you the needed time to process what you’re going through and come up with solutions to help you move past the trauma of your suffering.
You can ask yourself questions like, “Why am I feeling this way?” “Is there a deeper-rooted reason behind the intensity of my grief?” “Have I allowed myself to process past traumas fully?” With enough self-inquiry, you may reach a place of deeper understanding to help you move forward in life.
Painting, music, singing, and dancing are all forms of self-expression that help you work through your grief. These physical acts allow you to detach yourself from your suffering momentarily so you can focus on the present moment. The creative process helps you visualize your life as it was before your loss and create new images or thoughts and ideas of your hopes for the future.
There’s no limit or right or wrong way to release your grief through artistic expression. Every work of art is unique and encourages imagination, leading to healing for bereaved individuals.
Daily meditation is a ritual that can help calm the mind and reduce suffering within. Learning to meditate requires you to devote a few minutes each day to being still and practicing mindfulness. With each intrusive thought coming in, you’ll learn to acknowledge it, breathe through it, and release it, leaving you in a calmer state of mind.
Meditation helps those suffering from extreme anxiety and the constant thoughts racing through their mind related to their loss. Practicing mindfulness helps almost everyone dealing with grief in that it teaches you to take a step back to acknowledge your loss while processing your reactions to grief.
Reflection on loss
Looking back to how your life once was before your loss helps you remain connected to your past while honoring the memory of your lost loved ones. Reflecting on the relationships with deceased loved ones aims at continuing the bonds with them so that you don’t forget them.
As the years pass, it’s easy to forget the details of the bonds we shared with our loved ones who’ve died. Taking the time to think about them and remembering the subtle nuances about their character or the things they said helps you let go of your grief.
Make a let-go list
Letting go of grief isn’t always easy. Writing your goals down for the next three, six, and twelve months helps you focus on achieving healing through grief work. Find ways to associate each feeling or emotion that you’re going through with a specific memory or regret.
Work on each grief reaction individually when tackling everything on your list so as not to cause you to become overwhelmed. Remember that there’s no timeline to the grieving process, and you must allow yourself the needed time to process your loss without rushing or putting pressure on yourself.
Write two letters
Write a goodbye letter to your grief and one to your loved one or your past. The longer you live, the more losses and regrets you’ll experience, making life challenging at times. As these losses and experiences accumulate, they have the potential to turn into prolonged and complicated grief.
You can let go of your suffering by writing down everything you feel until you’ve listed everything you can think of. Write a sendoff letter specifically to your grief and one to the person or thing that you’ve lost. Be very detailed and include everything you need and want to say, then sign off on the letter and let it go.
Releasing Grief in Order to Heal
Although you may no longer be actively grieving your loss, you may continue to grapple with the residual effects of grief. When grief turns complicated, healing is prolonged. You may realize that you need to let go of certain aspects of your grief, but that can only happen when you fully recognize, accept, and reflect on your loss.